The former manager of Wagga's The Good Guys store says he will learn from his mistakes after being jailed for defrauding the business of $20,000 worth of cash and gift cards.
Daniel Karl Kisela was on Tuesday sentenced to 14 months' jail but will serve the time in the community as an intensive correction order, rather than in custody.
Kisela, of Kooringal, was charged with seven counts of dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception, and four counts of dishonestly obtaining property by deception after being arrested by police in April.
He pleaded guilty to all charges during his first court appearance in June.
The charges related to a number of fraudulent transactions the 35-year-old made while he was employed as the store's executive manager.
Kisela faced Wagga Local Court yesterday, when he learned he would serve a jail term, albeit one served in the community, after being convicted of the charges.
Court documents said Kisela processed seven refund transactions - worth $10,583.10 - to an EFTPOS card linked to his personal bank account.
The suspicious activity was exposed when The Good Guys' credit card refund script detected a high number of refunds processed by Kisela to the same card.
An audit revealed Kisela refunded various amounts from customer point of sale purchases to his card between January 1, 2017 and October 1, 2019.
He also purchased 57 gift cards - totalling $10,120 - using cheques from OCTEC Pty Ltd, a recruitment agency that specialises in helping people with special needs find employment.
A trace of the gift cards found they were used for various purposes, including to cover the fraudulent transaction of a refund, donations and staff incentives. Eleven of the gift cards were not redeemed.
When arrested, Kisela told police he was remorseful for his actions and was suffering from a gambling addiction.
In court on Tuesday his lawyer, Morgan Jones, reiterated the motivation behind the offences was to fund his addiction and the sole victim of the offending was The Good Guys.
Mr Jones said the refund offences were in the mid-range of seriousness and told the court Kisela had immediately returned one of the refund transactions, leaving a balance of $9234.
The solicitor said it was "certainly not an insignificant amount" of money but also wasn't a large total like you would see in white collar crime.
Mr Jones admitted the ongoing nature of the offences did increase their seriousness but said they were committed in the context of Kisela's addiction and personal stress.
He said the refunds were not sophisticated and no tactics were used to conceal his actions but, given his position, did involve a breach of trust with his employer.
The court heard the majority of the gift cards were not used for personal gain.
Mr Jones said Kisela began to experience significant stress in 2015, for personal and work reasons, including The Good Guys changing from a family-owned business.
He said this, in part, explained the use of the gift cards, as Kisela wanted to continue his community involvement.
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Kisela, who was supported in court by his mother, was described as a man of "exemplary character" with strong community ties, including as a Relay for Life committee member.
The court also heard he had "expressed genuine remorse for his actions" and was paying back the money.
Mr Jones said Kisela was suffering from a pathological addiction, had been isolating from gambling venues, had sought help from a psychologist and had good prospects for rehabilitation.
"Mr Kisela hopes to educate others about this particular addiction," he said.
The solicitor said Kisela had received significant extra-curial punishment as a result of the offending, including being terminated from The Good Guys and losing a subsequent job.
"These are very serious offences, but given the circumstances and explanation for the offending ... I'd submit it hasn't quite crossed the section 5 [full-time imprisonment] threshold," he said.
The magistrate disagreed, saying the threshold had been crossed.
In handing down the sentence, Magistrate Christopher Halburd said Kisela's actions were criminal, the $20,000 figure was no small amount and the two-year period over which the offences were committed was no small amount of time.
Magistrate Halburd agreed it was not the most sophisticated offending but said there had to be some degree of planning involved, and his position in the business meant there had been a breach of trust.
The magistrate said a message of general deterrence needed to be sent.
"When people are in a position of trust, if they abuse that trust they will be dealt with harshly by the courts," he said.
Magistrate Halburd acknowledged Kisela was a significant contributor to the community and had suffered as a result of his offending, but ruled there could be no penalty other than jail.
While the gambling addiction was "the catalyst" for the offending, he took also into account Kisela's early guilty pleas and "clear remorse".
"It seems to me the community is best protected by enabling the offender to continue the rehabilitation he has commenced," he said.
As part of the ICO, Kisela will have to complete 150 hours of community service. He was also fined $200.
A compensation order was sought, but adjourned for three weeks to allow discussions about the amount.
Outside court, Kisela said he felt "very fortunate to be out here right now".
"I will serve these 14 months out in the community, learn from my mistakes and repay what I stole from The Good Guys," he said.
"The way the [magistrate] set out his sentence, I honestly thought I'd be behind bars tonight."
Kisela also told how he wanted to use his experience to help others.
"If you've got a gambling problem, just reach out - to family, to friends ... don't do what I did. Don't steal money, get help and, trust me, the sense of relief at the end is worth it," he said.